For some spouses, the most important part of getting divorced is coming out on the other end with their dignity and a workable relationship with each other. In those cases, collaborative divorce is an option.
The concept of collaborative divorce was started in Minnesota and has now spread worldwide and to other areas of the law. It is founded on several premises. First, parties who engage in the collaborative process commit to full and free disclosure of all information and documentation pertinent to the divorce so that both parties can make informed decisions about their futures. Second, the parties ensure confidentiality throughout the divorce process so that they can feel free to discuss all issues without reprecussions. Finally, the parties waive their right to initiate court proceedings during the collaborative process thereby avoiding the mudslinging and degradation often associated therewith.
Parties who choose to follow the collaborative model sign a participation agreement at the outset of the proceeding that sets forth the foregoing ground rules. Parties meet with their collaborative attorneys early in the process to discuss individual needs and concerns. Subsequently, a full and final settlement is reached through a series of four-way meetings with both parties and their respective attorneys. In some cases, experts such as child specialists, financial neutrals or divorce coaches are drawn into the process to assist with parties’ specific needs. All the while, the parties and their lawyers proceed through the divorce process with dignity and respect with the goal of crafting a settlement that addresses both parties legal, financial and emotional needs.
If you are thinking about going collaborative, you should be aware that the commitment to staying out of court (contained in the participation agreement that you will sign) means that you will have to release your collaborative attorney and hire a new attorney if court intervention becomes necessary. The advantage of the rule is that most parties remain committed to resolving their divorce through the process because they do not want to start over (among other reasons). At the same time, the disadvantage of the rule is that you are forced to start over if the collaborative process does not work for you.